Would a higher instance be able to arbitrate the conflict in the East China Sea?

Johanna Heidgen posted 5 months ago, 0 Responses
The conflict in the East China Sea between Japan and China goes back more than 100 years. Basically, both nations claim rights about an area in the sea, which contains natural gas and oil fields.

But as global conflicts are by nature, it is way more complex. 

Throughout history, different countries were included in the dispute through territorial claims in order to gain power within that region, which has lots of natural gas and oil resources as well as which includes main trading passes. 

In 1895 the Sino-Japanese war ended with signing the Treaty of Shimonoseki, in which China cedes territories to Japan. The Treaty didn’t specifically mention the islands, about which they are fighting these days.
After the 2nd World War Japan had to give back all claims to the territories seized through war, which was stated within the declaration of Kairo in 1943 and the declaration of Potsdam in 1945. 

As it was not mentioned within the Treaty after the Sino-Japanese war, to what country the two disputed islands belonged before, the affiliation is still not officially solved up to today.

It all got more heated after an UN-report stated in 1969 that there is a high probability of oil and gas resources in the disputed area. 

China started to claim rights over the islands and the US got involved because of an US-Japan Mutual Defense Treaty from 1960.

The US took a neutral stance in the whole conflict in order to normalize relations with China which hopes to end the Vietnam war.
But they still played a role in the background by supporting ASEAN countries and Japan in order to hold their own stability within that region.

After years of disputes over the gas field, Japan and China finally signed a Joint Energy Development Agreement in 2008. It says that both countries agree on exploring the fields jointly, which was a major step towards a cooperation on energy the resources. 

Closely to a peaceful solution, China began to build a rig in 2009 unilaterally. Japan threatened to bring China to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the tensions arose again.

Since the agreement was made little has been done to increase resource developments jointly.

During the last century, the tension rather increased annually. The US took their part in it, the Philippines and other ASEAN countries as well. The neighbouring conflict in the South China Sea brought more parties to the conflict.

After Japan purchased the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands from a private owner in 2012 in order to protect their sovereignty, the largest Anti-Japanese protests happened in China since the 70s. The economy between China and Japan dropped immensely and both countries increased their military budgets again. 

Japan soon started diplomatic talks with some ASEAN countries to engage the region in raising its economy and contributing hereby to peace and stability. This might have been another move for protecting themselves by cooperative support from other countries in that region.

Soon Japan offered military aid for the conflict on the South China Sea towards the Philippines and China declared an Air Defense Identification Zone which requires all non-commercial air traffic to submit their flight plans prior to entering that area. If not, immediate military action would be performed.

This again led the US to bring in their point of view, saying that China should exercise caution and restraint because The US-Japan Mutual Defence Treaty from 1960 covers the disputed islands for which the Air Defence Identification Zone was released. 

After, the US signed a ten-year military pact with the Philippines in 2014, who are in conflict with China as well because of some other disputed islands, called the Spratly Islands. 

In 2016 China snatched and later on returned a US Navy underwater drone. In 2018 the tensions increased even more after a Chinese and a US warship nearly collided. The US secretary cancelled his trip to Beijing and Trump said, President Xi Jinping may not be a friend anymore.

Since January 2019 more than 200 Chinese ships were seen near the island of the Philippines.

At the end, the whole area is valuable in natural resources and trading passes for many of the countries which are included in the conflict. 

What started to be a territorial conflict between two nations at the end of the 19th century is nowadays a global dispute about resources and trading passes in the Pacific.
The conflict includes decisions from past wars like the 2nd World War and the Vietnam War. It includes old and new Treaties and it includes way more interests than only these from China and Japan.
 
As the border of the East China Sea and the South China Sea are close might there be a possibility of a conflict which spreads even further? 

Or will there be an opportunity to find a solution? Would both conflict partners sit together and open up towards a possibility to solve the conflict? Which other countries are behind the conflict partners? And which higher global authority could support the parties in solving the conflict? What could be the function of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS in this conflict? Wouldn’t there be a possibility to fix by law, which regions belong to which country if the official 200 nautical miles from each coast is overlapping?

After so many countless years of experiences with conflicts about territories in human history, shouldn\'t there be an official global institution which would have the function to solve a conflict like this?